Detect Hard Disk Failure Before It Happens

Roughly 60% of all disk drive failures are mechanical in nature – from spindle-bearing wear to read/write heads banging into delicate disk platters – and now technology built into the drives can report anticipated and specific failures to give you a chance to rectify the situation, hopefully before it is too late to retrieve your data.

In addition to monitoring a variety of parameters related to mechanical events (disk platter RPM, time to spin up, motor current, head seek failures, and sudden shock to the drive chassis), S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) can report read and write retry attempts necessary due to defective areas on the disk or head failure or drive temperature.

Many S.M.A.R.T.-enabled drives can also report how many times they have been turned on and off and the number of hours the drive has been on.

If S.M.A.R.T. is enabled in your system BIOS, the BIOS will check and report any early or permanent signs of disk failure. You can also monitor your drive’s condition with a S.M.A.R.T.-aware disk monitoring program.

To view all available S.M.A.R.T. information about your drive, try the free DiskCheck utility from

DiskCheck is a nonresident utility that will show you exact drive information and all of the supported S.M.A.R.T. statuses from your drive.

There’s also Ariolic Software’s ActiveSMART ( resident monitoring tool, which provides a wealth of detail on drive status and notification of potential failures.

If you get a S.M.A.R.T. warning about a drive failing, back up your data immediately and replace the drive.

A failing disk drive is no fun. A failed disk drive is even less so. In working with our clients, we’ve encountered a lot of grieving “Have I lost all of my data?” looks from end users.

It is indeed a sad time. Many times, clients don’t “get religion” about data backup until something catastrophic like this occurs.

A plethora of disk drive repair and data recovery tools are available to help recover your data. But, the single most effective way to ensure you won’t lose your data in the event of a hardware problem is to make regular backups!

We’ve long since given up on the pedestrian Norton Utilities like Norton Disk Doctor because it does not do enough to spend the time running it, especially for those really cranky lost partitions, erratic mechanical problems inside the drive, and when S.M.A.R.T. says the drive is bad or going to be bad soon.

When it’s time to recover partitions and data we unlock our arsenal of serious disk recovery tools, which are:

  • Steve Gibson’s SpinRite 6.0 ( for finding and fixing or moving bad data blocks on FAT, NTFS, Linux, Novell, Macintosh, and even TiVo volumes.
  • Ontrack’s Easy Data Recovery ( for digging deep inside a drive and extracting recovered data to other media.
  • Symantec’s GHOST ( to “peel” data off a bad drive to a disk image for replacement onto another drive, or to extract individual datafiles with Ghost Explorer.

And, if our internal data recovery efforts fail, we always have the option  of sending a drive out to a special data recovery service, such as Ontrack ( or Action Front (

These services are typically very expensive – sometimes $1000 or more – but if it is the only option to recover your data, other than re-keying everything, it may well be worth the cost.

Just remember – regular, monitored backups are your best defense against hardware failure and data loss.